Rom-coms are formulaic and familiar, and that’s exactly what makes them enjoyable. Before you even start streaming one, you already know two likable characters are going to fall in love. There will be roadblocks and conflicts along the way, but of course, they’ll be resolved by the ending credits. Knowing this delivers a jolt of happiness, and this feeling only seems to get mightier with each repeated viewing. This makes the films within the genre the ultimate cinematic comfort food.
That said, there’s no better way to pair this form of nourishment than with another: a cocktail. So, with Valentine’s Day drawing near, we’ve paired up some of the best rom-coms out there with their cocktail soulmates. As you peruse, feel free to keep a few in your back pocket for use throughout the year. Just like true love itself, the pairing of a romance and a proper cocktail is timeless; they don’t need the forced vibes of a Hallmark holiday to work.
There are spoilers ahead, of course. But that somehow feels OK — after all, we already know these rom-coms will end.
‘When Harry Met Sally…’ (1989): Manhattan
There are three stars in this all-time classic exploration of two friends slowly growing closer: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and New York City itself. The romanticized scenic shots of the city’s landmarks and buildings give the film its soul, delivering a palpable energy that further draws you into the film’s world and may have you checking NYC flight prices immediately afterward (or at least craving a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Delicatessen). The Big Apple backdrop makes drinking a Manhattan as you watch the magic unfold almost mandatory; any other cocktail almost feels like you’re cheating on someone. It just doesn’t fit because of the name, either: The drink’s elegant combination of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters with a cherry garnish is timeless, much like the film itself.
‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ (2003): Cosmopolitan
The women’s magazine that assigns journalist Andie Anderson the movie’s titular article is named Composure, and its style and substance essentially make it a stand-in for Cosmopolitan. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, indulging in a cocktail of the same name just makes sense, especially since a proper Cosmo can be delightful. And, much like the film, you can riff on the original — you definitely have options.
‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (2008): Jungle Bird
It’s tempting to plug in “The Naked and Famous” here for reasons that are obvious if you’ve seen the first five minutes of the movie. Instead, take the high road by making this refreshing tropical drink. Most of the movie takes place in Hawaii, and was filmed at the famed Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore. In real life, the resort’s flagship restaurant Alaia features a drink called Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is basically a Jungle Bird when you break down its specs.
‘His Girl Friday’ (1940): Gin Martini
This old-school screwball rom-com about a newspaper editor and his reporter ex-wife is legendary for the rapid-fire dialogue and simmering chemistry between stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The black-and-white cinematography, the wardrobe, and the stylistic settings capture the essence of Hollywood’s Golden Era with pristine precision. Only a classic cocktail will sufficiently fit the mood it creates, and a Gin Martini is an easy call here. Word of warning: The film contains a scene that you may recognize as a legendary meme, and so try not to spill your drink when you see it.
‘The Wedding Singer’ (1998): Between the Sheets
This retro rom-com takes place in 1985, a time when grotesque, artificially flavored drinks with overtly sexual names dominated the scene. And though it was invented around the Prohibition era, the Between the Sheets leaned on its moniker to remain in vogue amid the neon-hued monstrosities. The old-school drink blends light rum, Cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice for a sipper that’s a little tart, a little burly, and a lot delicious. And though it would be right at home at an ‘80s reception, its excellence makes it a standout in any era.
‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ (2011): Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned Ryan Gosling’s Jacob makes for Emma Stone’s Hannah in his attempt to woo her may be one of the most perfect cocktail moments in cinematic history. That’s because Gosling learned from the pros: He was a regular at The Varnish, the seminal downtown Los Angeles bar co-founded by Eric Alperin and the late Sasha Petraske, and Alperin taught him how to make the drink as part of Gosling’s research for the character. This tutelage makes Gosling’s on-screen technique somewhat meta. Knowing that the burgeoning cocktail movement had a hand in Jacob’s creation makes it even cooler.
‘You’ve Got Mail’ (1998): The Godfather
This drama-tinged romance — which centers around an online fling between two people who dislike each other in the real world — draws inspiration from the 1940 film “The Shop Around the Corner.” Its cocktail choice also happens to stem from a different flick: In the rom-com, bookstore owner Joe treats the 1972 classic “The Godfather” and its memorable lines like it’s a philosophical work. This is all the excuse you need to whip up the drink of the same name, which contains just Scotch and amaretto. While Disaronno has been the traditional amaretto brand used since the drink’s 1970s heyday, you may find experimenting with other brands may yield different nuanced flavors.
‘Moonstruck’ (1987): Champagne Cocktail
During this New York-set film, family members drop sugar cubes in their Champagne to celebrate two different engagements. It’s an act of superstition, referencing an Italian tradition that’s meant to keep the devil away from happy occasions. Though some may find that extra sugar over-sweetens their bubbly, a Champagne-filled flute seems like the perfect way to toast this movie, and a Champagne Cocktail offers a terrific work-around to the enhanced sugar conundrum. Its sweetness is nicely balanced by a few dashes of Angostura bitters and a lemon twist for garnish. Whether or not the cocktail has the power to ward off Satan remains to be seen.
‘Groundhog Day’ (1993): Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks With a Twist
On day one of the time loop Bill Murray’s Phil gets stuck in, his love interest Rita orders a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist while Phil orders a Jim Beam with ice and water. On day two, Phil orders Rita’s drink just before she does to impress her. The scene justifies having the drink, but it also provides the perfect excuse to explore a sweet vermouth category that’s grown substantially in the 30 years since the movie came out. Just remember to store your vermouth in the fridge when you’re not using it, please and thank you.
‘High Fidelity’ (2000): Tequila Sunrise
This John Cusack classic doubles as a love letter to record stores and obsessive music nerds, so its drink should have a music connection. This concoction of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine meets this criteria in two different ways. The Tequila Sunrise lent its name to the Eagles 1973 hit song, and it gained a boost in popularity (and infamy) during the Rolling Stones’ legendary 1972 concert tour, a perpetual party so decadent that the band dubbed it “The Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour.” If you’ve seen the movie, you get the feeling that the denizens of Championship Vinyl would hate the Eagles connection. The Stones’ link, on the other hand? That would be very much appreciated.